Broncos 20, Chargers 13: 5 Things We Learned
Although it was certainly a nail-biting affair in the second half, the Denver Broncos finally managed to get a notch in the victory column for the first time in 2019 by defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 20-13. In what was truly a domination from the opening kickoff, the final score in Week 5 wasn't nearly as indicative as the play on the field would suggest.
The Broncos started off the game once again with a white-hot offensive display, including a 70-yard touchdown catch and run from second-year wide receiver Courtland Sutton that pushed the Broncos out to a 14-0 lead.
Denver's defense was able to shut out Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense for over three quarters, and overall held them to two field goals on the afternoon. More on this later.
It's wonderful to finally break down a Broncos victory for the first time in eight weeks, but there's still a lot of work to be done. What can we take away from the first win of the season?
Offense Still Not Executing A Full 60 Minutes
The first two offensive possessions for the Broncos could not have gone any better, seeing explosive play after explosive play propel the team to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
After the explosion to start the game, the offense really failed to gain much ground, especially in the second half. As soon as Joe Flacco was strip-sacked to start the second quarter, the offense went into a proverbial shell for the rest of the game, as the play-calling became stagnant and execution became horrifying.
Denver punted on four of their first five second-half possessions, with the fifth being a tipped pass interception that set the defense up inside their own 10-yard line. Thankfully, the defense stood its ground for the entire affair and bailed out the Broncos inconsistent offensive play.
Rushing Attack Finally Gelling
Even though the inconsistencies on offense allowed the Chargers to keep the game close towards the end, the Broncos running game — bulwarked by Phillip Lindsay's 114 yards — was effective for the majority of the game. Kudos to the Broncos offensive line for grinding out 191 yards rushing against a stout Chargers defensive front.
For the most part, the Broncos running game was well-designed and very well-executed upfront. There were a lot of big holes opened up for Lindsay and Royce Freeman to run through. When a team averages 6.0 yards per carry in the running game, they're doing great things in the trenches.
If only we could see consistency and aggression from the passing attack and more play-action passing plays to really open up the offense. This could have been a blow out had Denver kept their foot on the gas pedal in the passing game.
Defense Has Finally Arrived
It's taken five weeks to finally get a glimpse of what this defensive unit could actually do over a full four quarters, and the end result was glorious.
Denver held Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to 35 total rushing yards, rendering the Chargers offense completely one dimensional. Denver also shut down the passing attack for the majority of the day, as Philip Rivers barely cracked the 200-yard mark on the afternoon.
Despite Ekeler having a monster day out of the backfield as a receiver, Denver's defense was swarming all over the field and held the Chargers offense to just six points.
With superb open-field tackling, constant and relentless pressure on Rivers, as well as some long-awaited and well-timed turnovers, the Broncos defense dominated the game from start to finish.
Kareem Jackson Is A Monster Difference-Maker
If you are wondering what a heat-seeking missile looks like, look no further than the performance of Kareem Jackson in the running game. Jackson was everywhere on Sunday, coming downhill from his safety spot with a vicious intensity and complete disregard for human life.
Last week, the Broncos were horrifyingly bad when it came to tackling in the open field. The return of Jackson to the defensive front certainly assuaged those issues.
Jackson led the team with 10 total tackles, including a clutch hit on Ekeler on the last play of the first half. Jackson's wicked shot on Ekeler caused him to fumble the football through the end zone as time expired, keeping L.A. from putting points on the board.
It might have been the biggest play of the first half for the Broncos defense, but it wasn't the only time Jackson blew up a play in the open field. His performance was truly spectacular. Look for a film review later this week.
Malik Reed Can Ease The Loss Of Chubb
When the news broke that Bradley Chubb was going to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, there were questions about who would be able to show up and fill the void for the Broncos defense. Would it be rookie fifth-round pick Justin Hollins, the newly-signed Jeremiah Attaochu, or undrafted rookie Malik Reed?
Reed not only knocked on the door, but he kicked it down.
Arguably the most impressive player on the Broncos defense Sunday afternoon, Reed was constantly in the Chargers backfield in both the running game and as a pass rusher.
Reed didn't record a sack, but he was constantly in the face of Rivers with relentless pressure. He displayed a vast array of pass rush moves, getting close on several occasions. Rivers' ability to manipulate the pocket and get the ball out quickly helped him avoid a sack on Sunday, but Reed was always in his back pocket.
Our own Thomas Hall predicted during the preseason that Reed could follow the same trajectory of former Bronco Shaquil Barrett. With Reed's performance on Sunday, that looks to be a good projection. Hopefully, Reed can continue to progress moving forward.